Surrounded by mountains and gorges, valleys and caves, deserts and beaches, offering a plethora of adventure activities, the Sultanate of Oman is an excellent short-haul destination for Indians.
Oman offers a picturesque landscape, with carefully cultivated greenery and lakes amidst mountains everywhere and centuries-old lighthouses, forts and castles. In addition to this, the extremely hospitable people of the land, especially with their affable behaviour towards Indians, excellent road connectivity and high standards of hospitality infrastructure even in smaller towns, has positioned Oman as a top choice among niche Indian vacationers. A huge Indian workforce is distinctly visible everywhere in Oman. Hence, a large number of VFRs (visiting friends & relatives) always adds to Oman’s tourist arrivals from India. Oman Tourism is well aware of this visitor inflow and hence, has carefully planned its very aggressive tourism promotion in India, targeting a niche clientele of luxury, adventure, destination wedding and honeymooners as well as top MICE players.
Says Asma Al Hajry, Deputy Director General, International Tourism, Ministry of Tourism–Oman, “Oman is primarily a high-end and niche leisure destination. We are not positioning Oman as a mass tourist destination. We are targeting those who view Oman as a niche travel experience. Oman offers everything a leisure traveller expects. Apart from general travel, we are also seeking to attract Indians who want to make Oman a location for destination weddings and MICE activities. We have been receiving year-on-year growth in terms of Indian arrivals to Oman. From 2010 to 2015, we have seen a 60 pc increase in Indian arrivals.”
“We have adopted ‘Beauty has an Address’ as the brand’s slogan. The brand call is a device to convey tangible and evocative personal experiences when visitors discover that beauty has an address. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, hence the brand call is fulfilling over countless personal experiences. We often contrast heritage and modernity, authenticity and quality, nature and indulgence. Our campaign monitoring indicates that the slogan ‘Beauty has an Address’ has gained popularity. A catchy slogan stays in the mind of the people which eventually leads to increased brand recall,” added Lubaina Sheerazi, India Representative, Ministry of Tourism – Oman.
Big Fat Indian Weddings
There is no prize for guessing that destination wedding is now one of the hottest trends among affluent Indians. When Oman Tourism started aggressive promotion in India through its India representative, Blue Square Consultants in 2010, they concentrated on attracting premium leisure travellers from India to Oman, consciously changing and expanding the tourist profile. The focus was to diversify the tourist arrivals by bringing the famous big fat Indian weddings to Oman. To promote Oman in the destination weddings market, Oman Tourism has also started conducting familiarisation trips for Indian wedding planners on a regular basis. They also actively conduct sales meetings and presentations with wedding planners and attend Indian events associated with destination weddings. All of these efforts have slowly but certainly started yielding results. In the last three years, Oman has hosted 12 big Indian weddings. What worked in Oman’s favour was the uniqueness and newness that it provided to the destination wedding market of India.
Honeymoon & Romantic Tourism
Oman presents all its properties with a beautiful hospitable package. In most of the properties, there is unique sense of privacy that creates ideal atmosphere for honeymooners and romantic couples, wishing to spend solitary moments. Several high-end luxury properties like Shangri-La, Grand Hyatt, Al Bustan-Ritz Carlton and The Chedi provide honeymooners the luxury and privacy they require on their honeymoon. Then, there are also options to go to faraway places in small towns and find boutique resorts and hotels with almost similar customised facilities. Couples may choose to stay luxury desert campsites at Sharqiyah Sands or Dunes at the Wadi Al Abiyad Sands that provide solitude, serenity and the beautiful setting under a starlit sky. There arealso Six Senses Zighy Bay, the secluded mountain getaway and Shangri-La’s Al Husn Hotel that offers Shangri-La’s highest level of service, amenities and privileges to the most discerning of travellers.
Besides weddings and cinema, Oman is also targeting to become a major regional centre for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) following the establishment of a new Oman Convention Bureau by the Ministry of Tourism – Oman. “We are fully committed towards enhancing the MICE sector in Oman to help the Sultanate achieve its potential to be a first class destination for this sector. Our Tourism Strategy for 2040 has MICE as a major pillar for the future to help us grow and enhance the industry. The objective of the Bureau is to support the international and local organisations in hosting their events and cater to their requirements,” says Salim Al Mamari, Director General of Tourism Promotion, Ministry of Tourism–Oman said.
Currently there are many airlines with direct flight connectivity to Muscat from various Indian cities. Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo, SpiceJet and Oman Air operate direct flights between Muscat and 11 Indian cities, such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Kochi, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. But flying within Oman is restricted to Oman’s national carrier, Oman Air. Oman Air has recently expressed its plans to connect more destinations in India, notably Kolkata. Oman’s first budget airline, SalamAir is planning to launch direct flights to India also. This announcement comes after the governments of Oman and India revised their flight agreement in December 2016, when the numbers of weekly seats were increased from 21,145 to 27,405.